Location: Pennsylvania

Cancerversary: October 2021

Age at diagnosis: 31

Diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma

Stage of cancer: III

How my story begins: My niece Riley was diagnosed with C a year before me. COVID hit, my niece got C and I decided its time I start taking better care of myself. I went to my primary care physician for a check up and they brought up gyn. I had never been to a gyn before because of embarrassment. But they said we have a gyn right in this building and that gave me a little comfort so I booked an appointment. During that appointment, I had a Pap test done which showed HPV, CIN2/CIN3. They told me they needed to do a colposcopy to get a better look at the cells.

So a few weeks later the colposcopy showed CIN3/CIS. I was told I needed a LEEP procedure so they can make sure cancer was not invasive. After my LEEP procedure in March 2021, it took awhile to get results. I called the office and was told my slides were sent to another hospital for second opinion. At that time my gut knew I was also facing my own C-word now. At this time they told me I was possibly a stage 1B1.

I was sent to see an oncologist who told me I needed to have a hysterectomy. I remember him asking me if I coded on the table if I wanted to be resuscitated… it took me a long time to answer. He put his hand on my thigh and said, "your young, of course you want to be brought back."

I went for second and third opinions for a alternative surgery to possibly be able to save my fertility with a surgery called a trachelectomy. However, I was deemed not a candidate.

In May, I went in to have hysterectomy but when I woke up I found out my surgery had be aborted. They saw obvious signs that the lymph nodes had C and they removed 15ish nodes and did a procedure called a ovarian transposition. My ovaries were moved to my upper abdominal wall. I was told I needed to heal from this large abdominal incision and I would start chemo and radiation in June. They restaged me as a stage 3C1.

When June rolled around I was off to treatment. I was very lucky to have a transport service pick me up and take me to and from treatment everyday. Chemo on Mondays and external radiation Monday to Friday. Blood work every Friday and internal radiation at the end of my treatments. I did 6 chemo Cisplatin, 25 external radiation treatments and 4 internal radiation treatments.
My last treatment date was aug 3 2021. I was deemed NED Oct 10 2021.

Life before my diagnosis: Prior to my diagnosis I was preparing my life to be a mother. Getting my monthly payments down so I felt financially secure enough to be able to take off time to raise a child of my own. I left a job as a emergency medical technician a few years prior to take a job with more secure and routine hours with better benefits, to be able to work towards my goal.

How I felt after diagnosis: After I was diagnosed I had a hard time accepting it. I went for second and third opinions because my mind kept saying those doctors are wrong. How, why, I feel fine? Someone messed my tests up I was sure.

Telling my family and friends: Over the years I distanced myself from friends and family. I worked long hours with EMS and just didn’t make time for things that really mattered. I was focused on getting ahead in life but I left a lot of people behind. I didn’t know who would want to know. Who would care to know. My niece was already fighting C for a year at that time and I thought stage 1 when she has stage 4. I minimized myself as anyone in my shoes at that time would probably do as well.

My treatment: I received 6 chemo treatments of Cisplatin by IV, 25 external radiation and 4 internal radiation.

How I felt after treatment: After treatment everyday I felt completely wiped of energy. I remember sleeping 16 hours a day and felt like my life goal turned to just fighting C. Everything else went out the window. My job, my purpose was to get rid of this thing trying to take over my body.

What was most difficult for me: I think the most difficult part of this was feeling alone. I could have everyone messaging me but inside I felt isolated and afraid and I didn’t feel like I really had anyone I could fully let me walls down with. I didn’t have someone I could just cry with. Because if they were crying or upset my walls would go up and I’d just say I was okay when internally I wasn’t.

What I did to help myself: During treatment I explored a lot of different hobbies. Anything that would keep my mind from going to bad places. I picked up rock tumbling, jewelry making, resin crafts, coloring and every VR ( virtual reality ) gaming. Anything that would take me mentally away what was going on.

My life after cancer: I’m almost 6 months NED. I’m having trouble with a few things but I’m managing. I feel lost in a sense. Where/what I thought my life would be isn’t what it is. I feel like someone took my path right from under my feet and I’m trying to find my footing again.

I was just diagnosed with radiation damage. Radiation colitis and proctitis. So I’m struggling with that right now. My colon has a lot of inflammation so I have to take steroid enemas every night before bed in hopes it helps the inflammation. I was told by the GI I might need a colon resection however I’m hoping not.

Where I am today: Today I’m still struggling to find my footing. I’m grieving everyday the loss of my fertility. I’m on hormonal patches for menopause.
Just trying to make a new path it’s hard to let go of my old path.

What I want other women to know: What you go through doesn’t have to define you. This is your story and you can always turn things around. Don’t let a bad chapter stop you from writing good ones.

How I will try to help others: Remind people to never minimize their self and their pain. There will always be someone out there with a story worse off then you. But that doesn’t mean what you are going through isn’t hard and you also need support.